Examining regional mobility

July 3, 2012

Byron Clark

The recent Australian census revealed that 483,000 New Zealanders are currently living in Australia. 130,000 of them are Maori. The figures have provoked some coverage in the media, including a number of articles quoting William Bourke, the founder and director of the Stable Population Party, which wants an end to the Trans-Tasman Travel agreement that allows New Zealanders to live and work in Australia. The party, with a level of support that sees it lumped in the ‘others’ statistic in polls, represents the most reactionary wing of the environmental movement, those that see the problem as one of ‘too many people’. Another policy is ending parental leave for women having more than two children.

Australian recruitment firms are looking for workers in New Zealand to fill a supposed labour shortage in Western Australia. Over a thousand people have registered for a “fly in, fly out” scheme that would see New Zealanders spend five weeks in Western Australia and then two weeks back home. They would be paid in New Zealand dollars to New Zealand bank accounts. In Kaikohe, an impoverished town in the far North with a population of 4100, one in every six people have signed up to work in Australian mines. 2499 people in and around Kaikohe are receiving an unemployment benefit, so earning prospects of NZ$127,000 to NZ$180,000pa are a huge draw card.

Salaries are well in excess of even what a skilled miner would earn locally, NZ$85,000 and NZ$90,000pa. The work is not easy though- Twelve-hour days, seven days a week in 40 to 50 degree Celsius heat in the middle of the dusty outback. This is the definition of the Australian expression “hard yakka”. Hamilton builder Tim Bennett, 24, who went to work in Western Australia to pay off debt working in exploration drilling told TVNZ that the lifestyle was “miserable”.

“We were lucky if we got to stay in a caravan park. Sometimes it was just tents and a caravan out in the desert.” Read the rest of this entry »


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